Our Story: VetMedAcademy (VMA)
VetMedAcademy.org (https://www.vetmedacademy.org) is a non-profit organization dedicated to curation, development and global sharing of veterinary curricular content. VMA recognizes that the nature of general education had been transformed by the arrival of student-centered video learning resources. Accordingly, it seeks to emphasize the creation of learning modules designed for veterinary students highlighting short videos, together with targeted reading, and formative quizzes with feedback, organized on its customized Moodle platform, the most widely used open-source learning management system in the world. VMA makes most of those resources available for free or low cost on this system and its YouTube channel. All resources can be re-packaged and adapted for use onsite or on a university learning management as long as the instructor adheres to Creative Commons Attribution standards, acknowledging the content author and VetMedAcademy.
Mission: Creation and Curation of Resources for Self-Study, Review, and Blended Classroom with an Emphasis on Critical Clinical Thinking
VMA’s founders have engaged in both pre-clinical and clinical education, onsite and online at the veterinary and veterinary technician level for over 30 years. From this experience, the following guiding principles for its learning modules have been developed:
1) Pre-clinical topics need to be presented in a clinically relevant context.
2) Students forget, necessitating content on a platform reviewed and updated by experienced educators facilitating just-in-time learning or review.
3) Students need early curriculum practice and guidance at developing as clinical problem-solvers understanding the principles of evidence-based medicine. VMA recognizes that this is the best left to faculty face-to-face instruction, so the ideal learning module suggests critical clinical thinking exercises applicable to pre-clinical periods of training.
4) Learning modules on VMA are designed to make the trial of blended learning less daunting. By providing a training module entitled “Blended Learning and Critical Thinking,” and encouraging co-development of materials with faculty members, VMA seeks to help faculty realize the affordances of a blended learning approach.
5) International emphasis and where possible, multilingual. Exemplified by our Spanish pharmacology series, content experts around the world are encouraged to prepare learning materials in their own language.
VetMedAcademy seeks to develop or curate veterinary educational information that is short, usually highlighting short video linked to study and review questions, as well as relevant weblinks, readings, and relevant clinical exercises focused to critical clinical thinking (problem-solving). All are searchable within the Moodle learning management system.
So, students may use the resources for supplemental initial study to supplement their curricula, or as review when they are at more advanced stages of the curriculum.
Faculty can use the resources as a way of jumpstarting their approach to using blended learning and a more interactive style in their face-to-face classroom.
No. VetMedAcademy seeks to amplify cooperation between content experts within and outside of academia, leveraging their unique insight to focus on, in particular, the relevant aspects of pre-clinical education.
In fact, VetMedAcademy is, in part, the philosophical descendant of an initiative called VetICE (Veterinary Internet Content Exchange) which was a Dept. of Education-funded partnership between several veterinary schools. The project sought to charge veterinary schools for the rental of high-cost video courses, and this business model failed after the grant.
VetMedAcademy seeks mainly to help bring the concept many might identify with Khan Academy to veterinary medicine, that is open educational resources made available as Creative Commons Attribution educational resources. As such, VetMedAcademy hopes faculty will use its platform as a way of publishing their creativity as teachers, knowing that others will recognize them for it.
Let there not be another wheel be reinvented!
Why? VetMedAcademy seeks to remain free to veterinary and animal health students around the world. It recognizes that students and faculty around the world have access to educational resources of variable quantity and quantity. It seeks, in a small way, to level the "playing field."
How? It isn't easy! However, VetMedAcademy seeks volunteer educators and coordinators just like any non-profit. And because everything costs money, it encourages a low-cost informal model of video development, and it uses open-source platforms for its learning management system (Moodle) and for its web portal (Drupal). We estimate that just the access of one student to its platforms costs ~$50 (U.S.) per year, and the development of a unique ~10 min unique animated video costs about $3,000 (U.S.).
However, VMA is constantly seeking grants, sponsors, in-kind content partners, and individual donations. All support helps, and is essential! It really "takes a village."